Kiara D’Souza hit the tennis court when she was barely seven, not out of love for the game, but because she was overweight and her parents wanted her to reduce, and enrolled her in the nearby Willingdon Gymkhana. Today, as a teenager, she is passionate about tennis without neglecting her studies. She recently passed out of St Andrew’s Junior College, Bandra, Mumbai, with distinction. The Teenager Today team met Kiara at our office for a short interview. Excerpts:
Hi Kiara, The Teenager Today is delighted to meet you! Would you like to tell us briefly about your early years: any special memories?
I was born on 21 November 2002. Both my parents worked in the banking sector. So my grandmother took care of me. I had sweet memories of my grandma making delicious food, and feeding me with lots of love. I started putting on weight because of no physical activity. In fact, my doctor told my parents that I was 14 kgs more than my desired weight and he suggested that I take up some sport for physical activity. My parents enrolled me in the nearby Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana and I took my first steps to the tennis court when I was barely 7.
What made you choose lawn tennis as your most favourite game?
I was so-so about tennis in the beginning because at that age I didn’t want to practise at all. It was just a form of physical activity. I had a lot of difficulty coping with the game as I did not have an athletic body. Also, my coach was not sure about me taking up tennis as my foot movements were very slow… but by then I was already passionate about tennis and decided to pursue it as a career. What I did have was the drive to become the best. That determination, fighting spirit and patience was inculcated in me by my parents at a very early age. I was taught never to give up and trust in God. It helped me to stay calm and composed in dealing with my insecurities.
Do you recall the first tournament that you played and won? Surely you were very excited! Would you share some of those feelings with us?
Participating in a tennis tournament at the age of 12 was an unforgettable experience. I won both U-14 singles and doubles events at Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association. Reaching the finals of the two events was something I always cherished but winning gold in both the events was like the icing on the cake. One of my most exciting moments was when MIDDAY Mumbai covered the event with the title “Double Delight for Kiara D’Souza”. This was one of the most emotionally-satisfying victories for me.
Who do you look up to as your role model in tennis?
Serena Williams has always been my idol. She revolutionized women’s tennis with her powerful style of play. Her powerful serves, groundstrokes and superb athleticism have inspired me to push myself to the next level.
Tell us about some of the major tournaments you played and won. Which is the most prominent among them?
I have a list of achievements and none of these would have been possible without my Lord Jesus who gives me the strength to do well whatever I do every day. In 2019, I represented Maharashtra State for Nationals at SGFI New Delhi. One of my most remarkable tournaments was when I qualified to play International Tennis Federation Women’s 25K in November 2019.
Do you have a coach? How long has he/she been coaching you?
Yes, I have an official coach. She is Supriya Mallaya who has been training me for the past one year. She accompanies me to all the tournaments.
How many hours do you practise daily?
I practise for nearly three hours daily on skill sets and another two hours for fitness training.
What about the lockdown days? How did you manage to have your daily practice during these months?
Covid-19 has caused maximum disruption to an athlete’s life. It’s very difficult to pursue the sport with all the precautionary measures; however, as an athlete I am doing my off-season training on fitness and skill sets so that when the season begins I am fit for the tournaments. I do my high-intensity workouts along with brushing up my skills (working on my mechanics/technical corrections) in the limited space at home.
How do you cope with your hectic schedule of being a regular student, your practice, and the outstation journeys for tournaments?
I have learned to manage my time effectively. It is very important to plan and prioritize, which means giving up on many time-consuming distractions, seeing the bigger picture and reminding me of my goal. Also I had great support and special guidance from my teachers especially when I missed my classes for outstation tournaments.
What else are you interested in other than tennis?
I am very fond of singing and strumming my guitar; it helps me to ease out.
How do you rate yourself as a tennis star? Your tennis dreams?
As a tennis player I had a very promising start, but I have a long way to go. I believe in putting my 100% effort and then surrendering to the Lord. My dream is to represent my country and to win Grand Slams.
You were a student of St Andrew’s Junior College, Bandra, for the past 2 years. How did the college support you in your tennis journey?
My principal, Dr Marie Fernandes, my sports director and my teachers believed in me from day one and they were always there to motivate me. The college recently felicitated me as the Most Outstanding Sportswoman of the Year.
Your future plans?
God-willing, my future plans include training abroad to be a pro tennis player.
A brief personal message for our readers?
Everyone wants success but only a few work for it. They are the ones who realize their dreams!
“There is no way around hard work, embrace it,” Roger Federer once said. I have to tell this to everyone that it doesn’t matter how old you are or how young you are… You can achieve what your heart desires. In my own case, I was not a born athlete with any natural skills. I had to work very hard, dedicate myself and be determined. In every field you require focus, hard work and most importantly self-belief. Sometime, you gotta be your own cheerleader. Above all, it is very important to stay connected with God; that’s where you get the strength you need to work hard!